With only a few exceptions, painting did not become a developed
art form in Vietnam until the beginning of the last century,
when the country was under French rule. The colonists established
an art school in Hanoi with a curriculum heavily biased
towards French art, and particularly expressionism, an influence
that is still clearly be identifiable in Vietnamese works
‘social realism’ period
The spread of communism, and the growing influence of the
USSR, led to a period of social realism. During this period,
the purpose of artistic expression was to further the revolution.
By definition, other forms of art were counter-revolutionary.
Thus, the soft images of derivative French Expressionism were
replaced by graphic depictions of heroic peasants, Viet Minh
soldiers, factory workers, and propaganda poster exhortations.
The Fine Arts Museums in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City have many
examples of the genre.
architecture, film, theatre – all were directed along the
social realism path, oblivious to artistic movements taking
place elsewhere in the world.
With the advent of doi moi, the open door policy, social realism
was put to one side to make way for a flowering of suppressed
Vietnamese artistic expression. Although much of the art in
the mushrooming galleries of Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City is
highly derivative, a new Vietnamese art style is emerging.
fusion of western styles and Vietnamese traditions expressed
in a range of media as diverse as lacquerware, furniture,
silk painting, calligraphy and ceramic is increasingly apparent.
Many Vietnamese artists now attract international attention
and can command prices in the thousands of dollars for their
artwork and sculpture.
artistic forms have yet to benefit from the Vietnamese renaissance.
Publishing, public art, public performances and television
are still tightly controlled.
Film making has been a state enterprise since it began. Films
were sponsored by the government on minimal budgets, usually
around $US 60,000. Despite a lack of money, and primitive
equipment, some Vietnamese films received international accolades,
but even they failed to gain a popular audience in Vietnam.
a film breaking new ground received a licence for distribution.
Instead of a worthy, innocuous theme ‘Bar Girls’ portrayed
the life of young women working in dance halls and dealt with
contemporary issues such as prostitution and drug abuse. Box
office receipts eclipsed those for Hollywood blockbusters,
usually the cinema’s staple fare.
the government has allowed private cinema companies to operate,
opening the way for a new film industry aimed at meeting public
Vietnamese pop music is a curious blend of 'middle of the
road' soft rock with highly sentimental lyrics, and is the
mainstay of the ubiquitous karaokes. Karaoke singing is highly
popular: families and businesses often have their own machines.
A wide range of Western pop is available on very cheap pirated
CDs and DVDs. Some of the famous international girl and boy
groups are popular, but there is no doubt that Vietnamese
youth, and their parents, prefer the home-grown version.
is little sign of the raunchiness associated with European
and American tastes, nor any apparent desire to express a
specific identity for youth through Western-style shock tactics
and exhibitionism. The teenage rebellion has yet to arrive
in Vietnam – if it ever does!